By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Vauxhall Spurs have certainly gotten off to a great start this season and the coaching staff is excited about what that could mean for the biggest games of the year later this summer. While there’s still lots of road left before those games happen, everyone knows how fast the summer goes and that includes the baseball schedule.
Looking at the early returns, the Spurs have racked up quite a few wins, but there’s always room for improvement. So far, the coaching staff has seen improvements in tons of areas and they’re rather happy with how the team has been able to improve on all facets of the game thus far.
“The biggest areas I see where we have taken things to the next level is with our bats and our pitching,” explained Jimmy Vulcano, head coach of the Spurs. “Our defence was solid from almost day one, but our approaches at the plate and awareness of game situations have improved greatly. The guys have learned to be patient and are really starting to identify pitches they can drive, particularly in certain counts during games. The guessing game in the box has diminished greatly.”
And with wins in the bank, that means confidence across the lineup and on the mound has grown exponentially. As the bats continue to drive the ball team, the coaching staff is excited about how that could potentially propel them forward later in the season.
“The confidence level across the board with our bats is very strong and it shows by how the guys conduct themselves during at-bats, and how they adapt pitch to pitch. We’ve put a lot of work in with team hitting at practice, most of which is done at game speed,” added Vulcano.
Continued batting practice and in-game situations have helped the entire Spurs’ lineup as the experience helps with their approach when they step in the box. The coaching staff has also been doing tons of work with the players so they can be loose when they get their chance to hit.
“The growing maturity of the approaches at the plate by the younger players and the ‘nothing gets by me’ mindset we have worked on with hitting jumps out in my mind initially. We are chasing far less pitches out of the zone and starting to see and drive certain pitches in specific situations,” explained Vulcano. “Liam (Vulcano, assistant coach) and I have made extra efforts to eliminate mechanical issues some of the guys were having at the beginning of the year, and have also worked very hard to get many players the knowledge they needed to have real confidence in their abilities at the plate. Our batting practices are always done at game speed and a real-world game feel is stressed during team offence/defence portions at practices.”
Of course, no team can compete without good pitching and the Spurs have started to round into shape on the bump. As pitchers continue to get into a rhythm, that has led to shutting down other teams’ offences. That in line with the hitting makes for a winning combo for the Spurs.
“Our pitching is the other area where the trend is going up. Bullpens are a daily affair at practices and we try to work on all facets of the position, like getting ahead early, different sequences for top/middle/bottom of batting orders, perfecting pick-off moves, continuously improving mechanics while letting each pitcher maintain their ‘style’ of throwing,” said Vulcano.
The team has been able to identify a group of starters that are comfortable starting the games which has helped the coaches gameplay for each series they play in. Likewise, a stable of relievers has been picked that the coaching staff is ready to turn to in any situation.
“Our pitching has been very good so far this year. We have nailed down a very solid group of four starters, and can now identify four to five relievers who have all proven themselves so far this year and have no issues coming in under any type of situation,” stated Vulcano. “Often we only get through just 50 per cent of our intended pitching rotation during a doubleheader, and have had relievers start games to keep the arms managed properly. Our goal with pitching was to have 75 per cent of our roster in the rotation as starters and/or relievers. We are almost at that point now and will be poised well by the time.”
Next action for the Spurs comes on June 29 when they welcome in the Lewistown Redbirds at 5 p.m. for a doubleheader.